Tuesday, June 27, 2006


Marxist accountancy

A while back there, Norm linked to an article in the Independent where various people gave their view as to whether Marx was still relevant or not (which, I have to say, strikes me as rather an impertinent question coming from the Independent, but anyway). Here was Eric Hobsbawm's response:

I think there has been a substantial revival of interest in Marx in recent years, and this has been largely because what he said about the volatility and shape of capitalism was correct - even some business people now seem to recognise this. Marx is once again somebody that you can quote, and this in part is due to the end of the Cold War.

In terms of Marx's legacy, as the Chinese are reported to have said following the French Revolution: "It's too early to tell." What we do know, though, is that Marx and his disciples were massively responsible for the shaping of the 20th century, for good or for bad, and Marx was an extraordinarily important thinker.

In this era of neo-liberal globalisation, Marxist thinking is still important in showing that while capitalism is enormously dynamic, that dynamism creates crises. We need to address these crises, not by free markets, but by controlling the system or changing it altogether. Whether or not that is possible in the short term is a different story.

That's all well and good, but I have to say that, while it's certianly true that "Marx and his disciples were massively responsible for the shaping of the 20th century" it seems to me that this was probably overwhelmingly for bad rather than good. On the whole, bad people who called themselves Marxists did an awful lot of evil things in the twentieth century, whereas good people who called themselves Marxists tended to be pretty much powerless, and thus unable to do a comparable amount of good things.

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